As I have previously written, berries are loaded with health-protective properties. For example, these super foods appear to fight cancer, heart disease, infections and more.
Now, for the first time, there’s remarkable evidence that people who eat blueberries, strawberries, and acai berries may protect their brains from the effects of aging, too.
Berries such as blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries are rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals that prevent and even reverse serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stomach ulcers and even help lower cholesterol levels.
Berries contain a variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants — many of these are what give the plants their color but they also add a sense of flavor to the berries. These phytonutrients are extremely powerful compounds for supporting optimum human health; in fact they are far more powerful than any pharmaceutical in terms of providing healthy benefits without dangerous side effects.
Blueberries are perhaps the most powerful berries in terms of antioxidant content: they are high in flavonoids and are known to help protect against prostate cancer, urinary tract infections and cataracts. They are also known to protect against brain damage from strokes and heart disease.
Cranberries are perhaps best known for preventing urinary tract infections, but they have also been shown to prevent breast cancer and reduce stomach ulcers. Cranberries can also be used to help decrease LDL cholesterol levels.
Strawberries are high in antioxidants and vitamin C. They are known to fight heart disease and provide a number of vitamins and minerals that support overall human health.
Raspberries are known for their ability to fight cancer thanks to the phytochemical content and abundant supply of vitamins and minerals. The bottom line is that berries can be an extremely powerful disease-fighting part of your daily diet.
Plants are pharmaceutical factories, but unlike human-built pharmaceutical factories, when edible plants create healing phytochemicals they are precisely the compounds that your body needs to be healthy, and they are available without the negative side effects that are frequently associated with prescription drugs. Compared to other fruit sources, berries offer the highest content of antioxidants and phytochemicals for fighting disease. Berries are also rich in many vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium and zinc — minerals that are frequently deficient in the diets of most Americans.
A new study, just presented in Boston at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), concluded these berries — and possibly walnuts — preserve memory and other mental faculties in a crucial but previously unknown way. They turn on the brain’s natural “housekeeper” mechanism. The result? The body cleans up and recycles toxic proteins linked to age-related memory loss, dementia and other mental deterioration.
Shibu Poulose, Ph.D., a scientist with the U. S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston who presented the report, pointed out that earlier studies have suggested that as most people age, there is a decline in the body’s ability to protect itself against inflammation which, in turn, causes oxidative damage. Bottom line: inflammation may be the initial trigger behind degenerative brain diseases, heart disease, cancer, and other age-related disorders.
For the new research, Dr. Poulose and Dr. Joseph investigated why nerve function declines with aging. They found it involves a reduction in what they described as the brain’s natural house-cleaning process. In a process termed autophagy, cells called microglia function as housekeepers, removing and recycling biochemical debris that otherwise would interfere with brain function. “But in aging, microglia fail to do their work, and debris builds up. In addition, the microglia become over-activated and actually begin to damage healthy cells in the brain,” Dr. Poulose stated.
Using cultures of mouse brain cells, the scientists discovered that extracts of berries inhibited the action of a protein that shuts down the autophagy process. “Our research suggests that the polyphenolics in berries have a rescuing effect. They seem to restore the normal housekeeping function. These findings are the first to show these effects of berries,” said Dr. Poulose.
The key is to be eating these berries in their raw, whole fruit form rather than trying to eat processed berries or drink fruit drinks made from berries. In order to get the healing phytonutrients, you must get the berries in the freshest form possible — that means no processed berries, just raw berries, right off the bush or straight from the grocery store.